Mr. President, I've come to the floor today to talk about a challenge the people of Washington state face: a critical challenge, an environmental challenge, a legal challenge, a moral challenge. That challenge is to rescue a symbol of the Northwest. That challenge is to recover our wild Pacific salmon.
Mr. President, as anyone who lives in Washington state can tell you, the salmon of our region are more than a symbol. They are part of our culture, our heritage, our recreation, and our economy. Unfortunately, the salmon that were once so abundant in our rivers and along our shores are now in danger. In fact, today several species of salmon are threatened with extinction.
Mr. President, when it comes to saving salmon, solutions are not easy to find. There are so many different viewpoints to consider: everyone from recreational and commercial fishermen to Native Americans and conservationists, to state, local and federal officials, along with private property owners have a role to play in helping us meet this challenge.
In my time here in the Senate, I've always worked to bring people together, and to find solutions that help us meet this challenge while still keeping our economy strong.
Today, I've come to floor to share with my colleagues and the American people some progress we have recently made in meeting this challenge. I'm proud to report that just last week, we took a major step forward to save wild salmon. Seven days ago, the President designated a vital salmon spawning ground known as Hanford Reach as a national monument.
I was proud to stand on the banks of the Columbia River, beside the Vice President, when this historic announcement was made. Mr. President, it was a dream come true. For a long time, many of us have dreamed of preserving the Reach. There are few places in the world like it.
For me and my family, as for many families throughout the region, the Columbia and Snake rivers hold deep personal meaning. My grandfather settled in the Tri-Cities in 1916, and my dad grew up there.
He watched his hometown become the home of a secret factory: a factory now known as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a factory that would give America the tools to win World War II.
When my dad came back from his military service in the Pacific Theater, he was injured, and he had lost a lot of friends in combat. He was not the same, and the place he came back to was not the same either. He knew that his hometown perhaps more than any other contributed to winning the war by producing the weapon that ended World War II. He took a lot of pride in that fact.
In my own life, I've spent a lot of time in the Tri-Cities. Growing up, I remember during my summer vacation getting in the car and driving to the Tri-Cities to see my Grandmother. I remember watching the hydros and swimming in the river with my six brothers and sisters.
When I was in college, I spent a great summer working at Sacajawea State Park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. I came to respect the history of the area, and the people who lived in the community. The first time I floated down the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, I was with my daughter Sara. We were so impressed with the beautiful landscape, the fish and wildlife, and the reminders of the vibrant Native American culture that abounds along the Hanford Reach. As we floated along, we saw the reactors, and I'd tell her about the role the Tri-Cities played in helping America win World War II and about her grandfather's part in that important history. We were both deeply affected by that day on the river, and it is a memory that I cherish.
When I started fighting to protect the Reach, my dad told me he thought it was great that I was working to give something back to a community that had given so much to our family and to our country -- that we had to have a commitment to cleaning up the site and protecting the surrounding environment. So last Friday, when Vice President Gore announced the designation of the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River as a National Monument, the toughest part of that day was that I lost my father several years ago and he wasn't there to see it happen.
Mr. President, the National Monument designation does not just enable us to remember our past. It will allow us to capture our future in large part by saving wild salmon. The Hanford Reach spans only 51 of the Columbia River's 1,200 miles but it spawns 80% of the wild fall Chinook produced in the entire Columbia Basin. Thanks to that designation, this vital breeding ground has been protected.
The designation also preserves the unique history of this area. Generations of Americans will be able to learn about the sacrifices that the people of the Tri-Cities made to help America win World War II, and generations more will be able to learn about the long Native American history along the Columbia River. In addition, the designation will ensure that families can use the river for recreation for years into the future.
This is the right thing to do, and doing the right thing also means keeping your promises. Mr. President, the people of the Tri-Cities have been given too many broken promises. I don't intend to be another link in that chain. The designation is not the end of the process, but the beginning. As I told the people of the Tri-Cities last week, I will continue to work with local leaders to ensure that their voices are heard. Working together with an open dialogue we can reach the best solution.
Over the years, a lot of people helped make this designation possible. Mr. President, I want the Congressional Record to forever reflect the tireless work of people like Rick Leaumont, Rich Steele, Bob Wilson, Laura Smith, Mike Lilga, Jim Watts, and Dave Goeke. < 2 > I want to thank the person who worked side-by-side with me in the House as we developed legislative solutions to protect the Reach, Congressman Norm Dicks, and also Jay Inslee, who has worked hard on this.
I also want to thank the members of my advisory committee, the tribes, and so many members of my staff who spent countless hours to save this valuable resource. I want to thank Governor Gary Locke for his leadership. I want to thank Secretary Babbitt -- for recognizing the unique value of the Hanford Reach, and Secretary Richardson for his help over the years on this and many other issues related to Hanford. And of course, we owe a debt of thanks to the President and the Vice President.
Over the years, we have asked much of the Columbia River, and it has always given back to us generously. It has given us affordable energy, turned a desert into a farming oasis, and provided a highway for international commerce. It is amazing how so very few times in our lives we are given the opportunity to truly give something to future generations. That is what we are doing with the designation of the Hanford Reach as a National Monument.
Today, I want to take a moment to thank a person who deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the progress we have made in the Pacific Northwest. Time and again the Vice President has demonstrated his commitment to protecting our nation's natural resources while ensuring that we have the strongest economy in our nation's history. He helped us develop Habitat Conservation Plans that allow us to conserve our environment while providing stability to our economy. He made our salmon treaty with Canada a priority for the U.S. government, and for the past two years he has led the fight to save struggling salmon runs.
To meet the challenges that we will undoubtedly face in the coming years, we will need a strong partnership at every level from the folks on the ground to local, state and federal officials. There is no person who is better qualified to provide the leadership to bring us together and to help us solve our toughest problems than Al Gore. The people of Washington state are grateful for his leadership and appreciate the gift that this designation is to future generations.
Mr. President, before I close I believe it's important to address one final point on this subject. I understand that Governor Bush plans to visit my state on Monday. I expect he will be impressed by what he sees, and he is always welcome in Washington. I am glad that he is making the trip, because, unlike President Clinton and Vice President Gore, I don't believe Governor Bush has spent much time there.
Governor Bush, the people of Washington want to know three things:
• First, will you make a commitment to protect the Hanford Reach National Monument?
• Will you commit to saving salmon?
• And most importantly, what is your plan for saving salmon?
When you come to Washington state, Gov. Bush, those are the questions people will be asking.
Quite frankly, Mr. President, when it comes to the Hanford Reach, I believe that the Governor should know that those in Washington state who are close to him opposed federal protection of the Hanford Reach -- a designation that will save the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River -- and the best salmon spawning ground we have. I believe that the voters of Washington state deserve to know what Governor Bush's intentions are.
And on the issue of preserving salmon on the Snake river, I have heard Governor Bush articulate what he won't do, but I have yet to hear what he would do to protect our region's economy while restoring wild salmon runs. His spokespeople attacked the Vice President on his latest visit to Washington state when the Vice President indicated his personal interest in helping our region solve the tricky issues related to salmon restoration. Bush's people offered no plan, they just attacked the Vice President for having one. The people of Washington want to hear plans for saving salmon -- not just attacks -- but credible, responsible plans.
Let me be clear. When it comes to helping the people of Washington state meet environmental challenges, just saying "no" doesn't cut it. The people of my state deserve to know what the President would do to save salmon.
When the Vice President was in Washington state last week, he met that challenge head-on. He very clearly committed to saving salmon. He said that extinction was not an option, and he indicated that his administration would call a summit to bring together diverse views so we can work together to save salmon. He faced the issue in a thoughtful, responsible way.
In fact, many of my constituents came up to me after the Vice President spoke to tell me how impressed they were with his understanding of the issue and his commitment to protecting our natural resources and to thank me for his leadership on this critical challenge.
Mr. President, the ball is clearly in Governor Bush's court, and it is time for the George Bush to provide his own answers and vision. When Gov. Bush enters the state of Washington, residents will be listening for his commitment to the Hanford Reach National Monument, listening for his commitment to saving salmon, and listening for his plan to save salmon. The people of my state care about this issue, and they deserve to hear specific answers.
I would suggest that if Governor Bush leaves Washington state Monday without addressing the concerns of Washington state voters on the issue of salmon recovery, perhaps his trip was more about politics and photo-ops than addressing the concerns of Washington state voters.
I urge Governor Bush to respect the concerns of the people of my state, to address their concerns, and to answer their questions.
I pledge personally to work with the next president to implement a plan that will save salmon while keeping our economy sound. My hope is for a President who is willing to work with me and the other citizens of Washington state in a constructive fashion to address the complex issues related to recovering the once mighty runs of wild salmon on the Snake and Columbia Rivers. I believe, Mr. President, that the people of Washington state deserve nothing less.